By Andrew Berman
On November 10, an overflow crowd of hundreds filled the Landmarks Preservation Commission for a public hearing on a developer’s proposal for the massive transformation of the south side of Gansevoort Street. The proposal would involve demolishing a one and two story building, replacing the former with a 122 ft. tall office building, and increase the height of a row of 130 year old two-story market buildings by four stories, more than tripling their height to 95 feet.
The public hearing lasted hours, with just two people speaking in favor. The opposition included the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Save Gansevoort, Borough President Gale Brewer, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, City Councilmember Corey Johnson, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who personally attended to speak against the proposal. Community Board #2, scores of neighbors, and representatives of preservation organizations from across the city also opposed the application.
The opposition focused on the scale of the proposed developments, the lack of relationship to the character of the street and the rest of the historic district, and the uniqueness and special value of this block. The buildings on the south side of Gansevoort Street form the only remaining ensemble of historic meat market buildings like this in New York City. Typically one to two stories with overhanging awnings originally constructed for the suspension and movement of meat, these buildings tell the story of how one of the industries which helped build New York once functioned and flourished here. It was in fact this meat market history, and these meat market buildings, which were central to the reasons why this areas was landmarked by the city in 2003 (after a three year campaign, spearheaded by GVSHP). And it is these buildings, and this history, which the proposal would overwhelm and obliterate.
Because the voluminous public testimony went so late, the Commissioners did not discuss the proposal at the hearing, saving that for a later public meeting at a date to be determined. The Commission will get to decide if the plan is approved, denied, or modified. What they decide will say a lot about how landmark districts are regulated in our city and our neighborhood, and whether or not demolition and larger new construction will become ever more common in these areas. Nearly all of the West Village is located within a landmarked district.
To find out more about the proposal or for the latest news, go to www.gvshp.org/gansevoort. To send a letter to the city in opposition to the plan, go to www.gvshp.org/savegansevoort.
Andrew Berman is the Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.